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Bitterroot National Forest offers tips to hunters

Posted at 1:12 PM, Oct 19, 2020

HAMILTON — The Bitterroot National Forest is offering up some tips as hunting gets underway in Montana.

  • All hunters during the general rifle season must wear "hunter orange" (hat, cap, vest, jacket or rain gear) above the waist. It must be the outermost garment and be visible from all sides. This is also a good idea for non-hunting Forest visitors this time of year. Consider putting an orange vest or bright bandana on pets (dogs, horses, etc.) that will be accompanying you as well.
  • Regulations can change yearly and from drainage to drainage. Know the regulations for the area that you will be hunting. Printed copies are available anywhere that licenses are sold or can be found online from Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks at
  • Hunters should treat every firearm as if it were loaded and always point the muzzle in a safe direction. Be sure of your target, and beyond, and know where your hunting partners are at all times. Never assume you are alone in the woods.
  • Leave a trip itinerary with family or friends. If hiking by yourself and don’t have family or friends in the area with whom you could leave an itinerary with, leave an itinerary in the vehicle.
  • Every hunter should carry these “ten essentials”: map, compass, flashlight, extra food and water, extra clothes, sunglasses, first-aid kit, pocket knife, waterproof matches, and fire starter.
  • Shooting and/or hunting is prohibited in developed recreation sites and trailheads including Lake Como and Bass Creek Recreation Areas.
  • Be aware that there may be bears in the area, store food properly. Also, carcasses should not be closer than 100 yards to your sleeping area.
  • Your cell phone can save your life, but don’t depend on having sufficient coverage, particularly in remote parts of the Bitterroot National Forest.
  • Follow the ‘Pack It In, Pack It Out’ and ‘Leave No Trace’ principles while camping.
  • Campers, hunters and others are not allowed to camp for more than 16 consecutive days in one location. New camps must be located five air miles from the previous camp.
  • Choose a site for a campfire carefully, near water if possible, and clear it of any combustible material. Remember, just because it’s cold in the morning doesn’t mean fires can’t spread quickly! NEVER walk away from a smoldering campfire. ALWAYS make sure a fire is dead out. Most human-caused fires in Southwest Montana start in the fall, either from cigarettes or warming fires.

Contact the Bitterroot National Forest for maps that cost $14 each. Office hours are weekdays between 8 a.m. and 4:30 p.m.

Forest Service offices are located in Hamilton, Stevensville, Darby, and West Fork. Some offices are currently operating ‘virtually’ due to COVID 19.

Maps can be mailed out or in-person pickup may also be available, depending on location. Forest Visitor Maps can also be purchased online here.

Maps can also be downloaded onto phones or tablets using the Avenza PDF Maps App. The app also allows you to measure distances or areas, and records waypoints.

To learn more, head to the App Store (Apple Devices) or Play Store (Android Devices) on your mobile device and search for the free “Avenza PDF Maps” application.

In order to protect our public lands and natural resources, the Forest would like to remind visitors of the importance of using designated routes.

There have been a number of changes to our road system as a result of the Travel Management Plan that designates 2,246 miles of forest roads and trails open to motorized use.

The areas are designated on a Motor Vehicle Use Map (MVUM) now available free of charge at all Bitterroot NF offices and online here.

MVUMs are also available for free at the Avenza Store. The maps identify which areas are open to motorized use, the types of vehicles allowed and any seasonal restrictions that apply.

All forest recreators are responsible for knowing which roads are open to motorized use. A road without a gate, barrier or sign does not imply that the road is open. Seasonal use restrictions are important for wildlife.

All vehicles must stay on existing routes and not drive cross-country. Many seasonal use restrictions include the period from Oct. 15 to Dec. 1.

Barricades and gates are meant to close a road, frequently for the benefit of wildlife. Violations of these closures can result in fines. Check the MVUM for the travel rules in your areas of interest.

People are asked to notify the USFS if a violation or resource issue is observed. In the case of an emergency dial 911, or contact Ravalli County Sheriff’s Office at (406) 363-3033.

People using horses, mules, goats or llamas anywhere on National Forests are required to bring in only certified weed free hay, cubes, pellets or grain.

Power wash the undercarriage and inside/outside of the bumpers of trucks, horse trailers, ATV’s or other vehicles you drive into the hills.

In Montana, outfitters and guides must be licensed to operate on federal, state, as well as private lands unless it’s their own.

Be sure your guide or outfitter is licensed. Call the Montana Board of Outfitters at (406) 841-2304 or Idaho Outfitter and Guide Licensing Board at (208) 327-7380 for more information.